Sports News 1968
MARIS RETIRES FROM BASEBALL AFTER FINAL SUCCESSFUL SEASON
St. Louis, Missouri
October 15, 1968
North Dakotan Roger Maris, the left-handed hitting slugger, has retired after a 12-year career in major league baseball. During those years, the quiet and unassuming Maris played in seven World Series, hit 275 home runs, and topped Babe Ruth’s long-standing home run record for one season.
Born in Hibbing, Minnesota, in 1934, Maris’s father, who worked for the Great Northern Railroad, moved his family to Fargo in 1942. There Roger attended Shanley High School where he lettered in football. During his senior year he set a national high school record when he returned four kickoffs for touchdowns in a game against Devils Lake. During summers he played American Legion baseball and led his team to a state championship.
Maris turned down a football scholarship with the University of Oklahoma to sign a $15,000 contract to play baseball with the Cleveland Indians. In 1952 he was a standout with the Fargo-Moorhead Twins of the Northern League, and after four years in the minor leagues he joined the Indians in 1957. Midway through the 1958 season, the Indians traded Maris to the Kansas City Athletics. His power as a hitter and his agility as an outfielder earned him a spot on the American League’s all-star team in 1959.
In the off season the New York Yankees acquired Maris, and in 1960 he led the league in home runs and again was selected for the All-Star game. In 1960 he won a Golden Glove award for his flawless fielding and was named the American League’s most valuable player. But, 1961, when his salary was $40,000, would be his most unforgettable year. On September 26, Maris tied Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record with 60. Then on the last day of the season, October 1, he smashed the old record with number 61. Mickey Mantle, his Yankee pal who was also chasing Ruth’s record, told the North Star Dakotan, “When he hit it, he came into the dugout and they were all applauding. This is something that’s only happened once in baseball, right? He wouldn’t come back out, so the players had to push him back out. They forced him to come out and take a bow. That’s the kind of guy he is.” Again, Maris was named the League’s most valuable player.
In 1965 he hurt his wrist and missed half of the season. The following year the Yankees traded him to the St. Louis Cardinals of the National League. His playing days, however, were not over. Before announcing his retirement this year, he helped the Cardinals to two World Series trips. In the 1967 series, which his team won, he set a Cardinal record of driving in seven runs.
As the North Dakota slugger hangs up his spikes and puts away his glove, he will always be remembered for his bat. He is one of baseball’s greats.
JACKSON PLAYS WELL IN FIRST SEASON WITH KNICKS
New York City, N.Y.
April 5, 1968
Phil Jackson has just completed his first year in professional basketball with the New York Knicks. The North Dakotan has had quite a year. He scored 463 points and has been named to the NBA’s all-rookie team.
He has come a long way from Deer Lodge, Montana, where he was born on September 17, 1945, to parents who were Pentecostal ministers. His family moved several times, but wherever the family lived, Jackson became involved in sports activities. Although his first love was baseball, when he was in the fifth grade, he began to take basketball, in his words, “seriously,” developing what would become his hallmark, the hook shot.
His parents were called to a congregation in Williston as young Jackson was entering junior high school. He thrived in a community which he describes as “sports crazy.” In junior high he quarterbacked the football team and pitched baseball, possessing, according to him, a “wondrous curve ball.” As a high school sophomore, now 6’1” and 150 pounds, he played center on the football and basketball teams. Tall and gangly, his nickname became “Bones.” As a junior he led the Williston Coyotes to the Class A basketball championship game. Now 6’5”, he scored 27 points against Rugby, but the Coyotes lost in a tight game. The Coyotes came back to state in 1963 and took home the championship trophy. Jackson scored 97 points in Williston’s three tournament games, just short of the all-time record.
Where to attend college was a difficult decision for Jackson. Several universities, including Minnesota and Arizona, courted the Williston star. But, in order to stay close to home, he chose the University of North Dakota where Bill Fitch, whom Jackson respected and liked, coached.
Since freshmen were ineligible for varsity sports, Jackson played on the freshman team and concentrated on his academics, which came to emphasize philosophy and religion. During his three years as a Sioux, he averaged 20 points a game. Now 6’8” and over 200 pounds, he had shed the nickname “Bones,” but picked up a new one, “The Mop,” because he spent so much time sprawled on the floor. In his junior year he was named as a first-team Little All-American. As a senior Jackson averaged 28 points a game and twice topped 50. His love of baseball never waned, however, and he is very proud of the one-hitter he threw against Arkansas State as a sophomore.
Professional scouts were keeping their eyes on Jackson. Because he had often played poorly when scouts were in the crowd, he was surprised when he became the 17th pick in the second round of the 1967 draft. He would be playing for the New York Knicks.
The Williston Coyote and University of North Dakota Sioux has hit the big show. The 1967-1968 season is over. The Knicks lost in the playoffs, but Jackson scored a high of 26 points. Phil’s thoughts about his first season as a Knick: “I had mixed emotions about my accomplishments. I averaged a little more than six points a game, so when I was named to the NBA’s all-rookie team, I felt it was an honor I really didn’t deserve. I discovered that being a professional athlete provided me with the no great thrill. I thought it was something I could do for awhile before going on with my normal life.”
By Dr. D. Jerome Tweton
Originally published as The North Star Dakotan student newspaper, written by Dr. D. Jerome Tweton and supported by the North Dakota Humanities Council.